FST Forward: Our Blog

FST's Freedom Trail Project Feted

A Fay, Spofford & Thorndike project was the center of attention on Friday, July 10, 2015, when Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh officiated a groundbreaking to celebrate the start of construction for the city’s Connect Historic Boston project. In addition to Walsh, the event featured U.S. DOT Undersecretary for Policy Peter Rogoff and Boston Transportation Department Director of Policy & Planning Vineet Gupta, as well as representatives of the Federal Highway Administration, National Park Service, Freedom Trail Foundation,Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation and others from City of Boston.

FST is the lead planner and designer on the component of the multi-faceted project that focuses on Blackstone Block, where the groundbreaking was held. According to the city, the area is “the oldest functioning street network in the country.” A pedestrian link between the Haymarket MBTA station and Faneuil Hall, Blackstone Block will be reconstructed to include a widened, ADA-compliant Freedom Trail Path. This component of the project also includes the conversion of Union Street into a tabled street with greater opportunities for business’ to create outdoor café seating, the reconstruction of Marshall Street and context-sensitive improvements to the alleyways.

Walsh said the project “really allows us to respect the tradition and history of these sites, but also to bring it into the 21st century by creating more opportunities here.” Rogoff added, “We anticipate that this project will dramatically improve Boston’s historic areas and inspire similar projects in cities across the country.”

FST was represented by John Calnan, who is the Design Project Engineer for the Blackstone Block component of theProject. FST’s design also included developing and incorporating a revised layout for Curley Park by in-house Landscape Architect Gary Walsh, lighting upgrades for the alleys by Dan Hallahan and Pedestrian and Bicycle enhancements by Walt Woo. 

The $23.7 million project is being funded with the assistance of a $15.54 million Federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant. Other project highlights include the Connect Historic Boston Bike Trail, rebuilding of Constitution Road and reconstruction of Joy Street.
 

Our Transportation Future

 

Annual BSCES Seminar Honors former FST Engineer Bert Berger.

There were two events in Boston this week that addressed the future of our region’s transportation system. On Tuesday morning, the Boston Society of Civil Engineers Section (BSCES) held its annual Bertram Berger Seminar, including two intriguing panel presentations that featured several heavy hitters among the state’s agencies. On Wednesday, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce (GBCC) hosted a panel presentation called “Lasting Benefits for Olympic Host Cities.”

Tuesday marked the 28th time that the BSCES has honored former Fay, Spofford & Thorndike engineer Bert Berger with the seminar that bears his name. The theme this year was “Transportation + Investment = Economic Progress.”

Sec Pollack of MassDOT: "We have to change how we invest in transportation" at BSCES Bertram Berger seminar.

Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack, the lunchtime keynote speaker, never seems to disappoint. Her speaking style is dynamic and she manages to hold the audience throughout. She touched on many topics, stressing the need to rethink how we invest in transportation. Her overriding point was that we must take into account the benefits that our infrastructure investments can bring in the areas of economic development, employment, the environment, social justice, etc. – in addition to their ability to improve how well we get around.

We were particularly pleased when she mentioned the Burns Bridge spanning Shrewsbury and Worcester over Lake Quinsigamond – on which FST served as the lead designer – as an example of an innovatively structured project providing multiple benefits to the communities and region.

Interim MBTA Chief Frank DePaola addresses the
Bert Berger Seminar

Speaking about the Olympic 2024 bid, Pollack stressed that she believes the transportation improvements that the games would potentially deliver must fit the region’s needs going forward. I’m paraphrasing here, but Pollack said that if the Olympics come to Boston, we need to ensure that any lasting infrastructure improvements made as a result of the Games are consistent with our vision of the future, rather than to accommodate one event.

On Wednesday, the GBCC may have stacked the deck with pro-Olympics panelists, but the trio’s enthusiasm for the Games was clearly genuine. Moderator Alice Cook deftly challenged the panelists – Charlie Battle, a lawyer who was Managing Director for International Relations of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games; Anna Clunes, who has witnessed first-hand the results of the 2012 London Games as Director of Prosperity, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO); and Colin Hilton, President & CEO of the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation – asking questions that reflected some of the skepticism seen and heard around Boston’s 2024 bid. Their excitement about the games never wavered.


Strong panel for Boston Chamber 'Lasting Benefits of Olympic Host Cities'

“The Games are a magical event unlike no other,” said Battle, who also noted that some of the infrastructure improvements that Atlanta is currently enjoying “never would have happened” were it not for the Games.

Clunes reported that 72% of all Londoners believe that
the Games benefited the city. Hilton and Battle both said that the facilities left behind by the Olympics are used not only by elite athletes, but for community recreation and wide public enjoyment.

The anti-Olympic folks still aren’t buying it – as evidenced by a terse, cynical (and slightly profane) reply to one our tweets from @NoBosOlympics. The issue faces a lot of debate and it should be an interesting process to watch and participate in.

I’d be remiss not to mention the two panels at the Berger Seminar, which also addressed key aspects of transportation infrastructure.

Panel One’s theme was “Transportation Investment Impacting the Economy.” Moderated by George Campbell of Louis Berger, it featured John Collura, PhD, PE, Associate Dean for Research in the College of Engineering at UMass Amherst; Laurence Kotikoff, PhD, Professor of Economics at Boston University; Mark Boyle, Assistant General Manager Real Estate and Asset Development for the MBTA; and Brad Rawson, Director of Transportation and Infrastructure for the City of Somerville.

The second panel was moderated by former MassDOT Highway Administrator Luisa Paiewonsky, who is now Director of Infrastructure Systems & Technology for the Volpe Center. Speaking to the topic of “The Future of Transportation Investment” were panelists Pamela Stephenson, Massachusetts Division Administrator for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA); Sam Sleiman, PE, CCM, Director of Capital Programs & Environmental Affairs for MassPort; Frank DePaola, PE, Interim General Manager of the MBTA and previously MassDOT highway administrator; and John Pourbaix, Executive Director of the Construction Industries of Massachusetts (CIM).

The bottom line for all of this discussion – Olympics or not – is that the needs are great and the available money is insufficient to properly maintain and improve our transportation infrastructure. For this reason, the message is that we need to think creatively, plan wisely and carefully, operate efficiently and communicate clearly to public officials and the people who use and support the system the benefits of a strong, well-designed and forward-looking transportation network.— Jerry Guerra, June 18, 2015
 

Harvard Prof Talks Transportation

Rosabeth Moss Kanter has earned renown in the worlds of politics, sociology, business management and other fields. In her latest book, "Move," the Harvard professor lends her voice to the call for action on transportation infrastructure. Former President Bill Clinton calls the book "a compelling road map for a new way forward."

Kanter was the guest speaker on Thursday, May 21, 2015, at the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Breakfast at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Boston. Also in attendance was former Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater, a friend of Kanter’s.

In her book and her dynamic, almost breathless address, Kanter pleads for “a new vision” to solve our nation’s infrastructure issues. Speaking to a general business audience – rather than an industry specific transportation group – her half-hour presentation was fittingly broad with little specific to answer her own call to arms. She discussed the importance of public transportation, the failure of the government to act and of the public to demand action to better maintain and improve our transportation systems, and the importance of the private sector in helping to finance the much-needed improvements to our nation’s infrastructure. She offered the Port of Miami Tunnel project, a $668.5-million public-private partnership, as an illustration of innovative thinking.

For those of us in the industry, much of Kanter’s message is sadly familiar. Our companies and our professional organizations have been sounding these warnings for many years. On a positive note, having a prominent educator, best-selling author and public figure in our corner can only help our case.

FST President & CEO Peter Howe and I attended Kanter’s talk. The audience was small for a GBCC breakfast talk, likely because the event was a late addition to the schedule. This is unfortunate because every person who hears Kanter’s message is another likely ally in the effort to fix our broken system.

In the Preface of “Move,” Kanter summarized her message this way: “For all the concerns and problems, this is ultimately a hopeful book. The facts, figures and stories about problems and opportunities are inherently interesting, and they can serve as a call to action. Fixing infrastructure is a way to rethink the nation. Infrastructure is important in itself, but is also a good starting point for generating the courage and collaboration that will help us get moving to solve a range of other problems. We need inspiring visions, strategic thinking, openness to innovation, and change processes that involve coalition building and uniting constituencies behind common goals—the essence of leadership. We need consumers, citizens, activists, corporate chiefs, and enlightened officials who are informed and motivated to seek change.”

Each attendee received a copy of Kanter’s book. I have not read it yet, but I will offer a full review in a subsequent post.—Jerry Guerra, May 22, 2015

 

Follow the Money: The Grant Application Process

It is an indisputable fact that the demand for municipal infrastructure projects far outweighs the money available to fund them. Not surprisingly, competition is fierce for the limited amount of money available to spend on these projects. This is why FST has developed a solid expertise in helping our clients apply for and win grants and other types of funding.

The process typically begins with a review of the available grant programs for which the project is available. Once we have identified appropriate programs, we assess the prospective applicant’s eligibility, project timeline, program deadlines and other factors related to the logistics of the project.  FST may attend a grant workshop or information session, and possibly submit questions to the funding source. Throughout this process, we are your partner.

Our next step is to coordinate with relevant municipal departments and agencies to collect the information necessary to prepare and submit the application. This requires FST to know the right questions to ask, the right information to collect and the best possible approach to take in appealing for funding. In essence, every funding application is a story, and we help our clients articulate a compelling, thought-provoking and complete account.  Not every application can be a winner, but we give our clients the best chance possible by ensuring that we cover every base and address every detail.

If you’d like to speak with us about how we can help you find money for a worthwhile project in your city or town, contact Mark Bartlett at mbartlett@fstinc.com. Mark or one of our other funding experts will be glad to discuss your needs and the available options. -- Jerry Guerra, 2/6/15

Six Keys to a Winning Application

For a successful grant application, FST has learned that the following factors are critical:

  1. Have a clearly defined problem, proven by documented data or study.
  2. Have a feasible and practical solution to the problem.
  3. Describe the solution and proposed project in detail in the grant application. Include a detailed scope of work, timeline, budget, permitting requirements and so on.
  4. Provide evidence of local support, both from the community and the municipality.
  5. Have a plan for providing local match funds if required. Potential local match funds include cash reserves, “service-in-kind” funding, or other community funding such as Community Preservation Act or direct municipal town meeting appropriation.

Stress the social and economic benefit the completed project will bring to the municipality and the region.

Our Transportation Future

June 19, 2015

Harvard Prof Talks Transportation

May 22, 2015

Follow the Money: The Grant Application Process

February 6, 2015